There are degrees of embarrassment; those graceless, mostly self-inflicted pickles which typically range from the mild unease of being caught in a harmless white lie to the runaway shame of accidently sinking your own flagship, the HMS Victoria, as the British Navy did during a somewhat poorly thought-through parade manoeuvre in Tripoli Harbour, 1893. Stupendously embarrassing, unquestionably, but even this rather awkward moment in history pales to the almost unfathomable humiliation awaiting the triune of Abrahamic religions the moment they confess to their congregations what’s been known for well over a generation: Abraham and Moses never existed, the Hebrews were never enslaved in Egypt, the Exodus never happened, and there was never a triumphant conquest of Canaan.
“It’s been decades since we’ve known… what’s the hold up?” asked Israel Finkelstein, the chairman of the Archaeology Department at Tel Aviv University. “The period of the patriarchs, exodus, conquest, or judges as devised by the writers of Scriptures never existed,” asserted Robert Coote, Senior Research Professor of Hebrew Exegesis at San Francisco’s Theological Seminary. “The Genesis and Exodus accounts are a fiction,” noted the biblical scholar Niels Peter Lemche of the University of Copenhagen. “The actual evidence concerning the Exodus resembles the evidence for the unicorn,” concluded Baruch Halpern, Professor of Jewish Studies of Pennsylvania State University. “The patriarchs’ acts are legendary stories, we did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, we did not conquer the land. Those who take an interest have known these facts for years,” declared famed Israeli archeologist, Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University. “Scholars have known these things for a long time, but we’ve broken the news very gently,” explained one of America’s preeminent archaeologists, Professor William Dever of the University of Arizona… an admission which then inspired Christianity Today’s Kevin D. Miller to concede: “The fact is that not one shred of direct archaeological evidence has been found for Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob or the 400-plus years the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt. The same is true for their miraculous exodus from slavery.”
It’s troubling, to be sure, when experts in the field are so certain and candid about the deception going on, but things turn positively ghastly for Yahwehists when the present day custodians of the patriarchal tales, the Jewish rabbis, also start owning up to the farce. “Defending a rabbi in the 21st century for saying the Exodus story isn’t factual is like defending him for saying the Earth isn’t flat. It’s neither new nor shocking to most of us that the Earth is round or that the Torah isn’t a history book dictated to Moses by God on Mount Sinai,” espoused Rabbi Steven Leder of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple. At the time Leder was speaking on behalf of Rabbi David Wolpe of the Conservative Sinai Temple (Los Angeles) who’d days earlier told his 2,300 strong congregation,“The rejection of the Bible as literally true is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis.” Wolpe, importantly, was also a contributor to the Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary; the first authorised commentary on the Torah since 1936. Published in 2001 by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (in collaboration with the Rabbinical Assembly and the Jewish Publication Society) the 1,559 page long Etz Hayim concludes with 41 essays written by prominent rabbis and scholars who admit the Pentateuch is little more than a self-serving myth rife with anachronisms and un-ignorable archeological inconsistencies, and rather than triumphant conquest, Israel instead emerged slowly and relatively peacefully out of the general Canaanite population with monotheism only appearing in the post-Exilic period, 5th Century BCE. “Most people just don’t want to hear all this and are not comfortable with it,” explained Israel Finkelstein, adding, “For scholars the matters are clear enough, and they know where there is, and is not, agreement, but they cannot compel the public to listen.”
So let’s cut to the chase: Admitting there was no Abraham, no Moses and no Exodus (which in-turn means no revelation) must be considered the Trinidad Scorpion Moruga pepper of embarrassments Scoville scale. It’s murderously inconvenient for Jews, but utterly devastating for Christians and Muslims whose central characters both make clear and specific claims to the existence of the Jewish patriarchs. In Islam, Musa (Moses) is considered a prophet and is mentioned 136 times in the Qur’an, and Abraham (mentioned 69 times) is even described as the Middle Eastern gods best friend: “Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to Allah, does good, and follows the way of Abraham the true in Faith? For Allah did take Abraham for a friend.” For Christians Jesus is equally careless, naming Moses in Matthew, and stating eighteen times in John that Abraham existed. Now let’s be brutally honest here; such barefaced testimonies raise some enormously unpleasant credibility problems for both religions. It doesn’t, after all, speak too highly of a god-man’s authority, intelligence, competence, insight and judgment if he couldn’t distinguish the difference between fairytale and history.
Awkward, and the question left staring Yahwehists in the face is not an easy one to navigate without injury. How does an “Abrahamic Religion” proceed knowing Abraham, the first Yahwehist, never existed, and the sages they worship were (self-evidently) delusionary and deceitful ignoramuses? For the answer Christians and Muslims should perhaps look to Rabbi Wolpe who calls for full disclosure followed by rational dialogue as the only way to calmly exorcise the historical blunder presently being practiced by 3.5 billion woefully mistaken individuals: “Such startling propositions, the product of findings by archaeologists, have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis… but there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity until now. It is time for people to know about it.”
I (and I believe every rational person on the planet) agree, and so let the conversation begin, and may it mean a swift end to this childish nonsense once and for all.